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After Sunday's deluge, my thoughts turned to climate change

PUBLISHED: 16:28 08 October 2019 | UPDATED: 16:28 08 October 2019

Firefighters were called to James Marston's parish of Aldeburgh to help out with problems caused by the flooding on Sunday Picture: JAYNE DALE

Firefighters were called to James Marston's parish of Aldeburgh to help out with problems caused by the flooding on Sunday Picture: JAYNE DALE

Archant

The heavens opened on James Marston as he was in church on Sunday - but the weekend deluge made him think more about the damage we're doing to the planet

I was preaching from the pulpit on Sunday in Aldeburgh church when it happened.

The rain, so loud on the roof of the church drowned out my voice.

As you might imagine I wasn't best pleased, particularly as I was offering some thoughts on Harvest Festival - a feature of country life that still goes strong in these parts.

But while I was at church, if you'll pardon the witticism, the heavens opened.

The deluge, and that is what it was, brought not chaos - a somewhat overused and hackneyed word I have to say despite the fondness for its usage in my trade - but disruption and disorder and concern for many at the very least.

My rectory, the house provided for curates like me, was surrounded with water and silt running off from neighbouring fields. The garden and patio is covered with several inches of mud, the shingle driveway washed away, the sitting room floor didn't escape either as the water level rose above the height of the door sill.

I must over egg the pudding, no one died and I'm not going hungry or homeless, but it was quite a shock to come home to I must admit. But amid the moving of furniture and lifting of rugs I ventured outside to see what else was happening in the village.

I was not alone, neighbours had also experienced flooding, people were outside in wellies, the clean-up operation had already begun. A gentleman from the parish council popped by to see how I was, conversations were taking place over garden fences, commiserations were shared, a friend texted to say he'd heard the rectory was flooded, phlegmatic clichés were exchanged….

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Life, of course, moves on pretty quickly and normality resumes, but these sort of events, in villages and communities across our region, often result in the restoration of faith in human nature. People show kindness, sympathy and courage in the face of adversity - great and small.

After years of reporting on and observing such communities, it seems to me there is something about shared difficulty that brings people closer. By dint of collective drama, cooperation is stronger and compassion heightened. Indeed, a little local difficulty can bring out the best in people - disaster collectivism it's called.

I suppose at one level it is an in built anthropological response to threat - we have to work together to overcome and survive. But, as a churchman, you might expect me to say that I suspect the hand of God might play a part too - community and people and helping one's fellow man is what church and faith is all about after all. It's probably a bit of both.

Whatever your take on this aspect of human behaviour the deluge put me in mind of not only the RAF Number 617 Squadron of famous Dambusters fame who use it as a motto, but also of Madame de Pompadour who, might have, famously said "Apres nous, le deluge".

Even if she did say it what she actually might have meant by it, isn't wholly certain but it could be a way of expressing a lack of care for one's fellow man - after us, the flood - after us who cares.

And I can't help thinking that Apres nous, le deluge, interpreted in this way might be considered as a mantra for modern secular individualism - the I'm alright Jack school of thought. This week the global Extinction Rebellion protests have begun in earnest and there have already been scores of arrests in London alone.

I might struggle with the blatant defiance of the rule of law but I can't help feeling these people have a point. For too long perhaps, each generation has held an attitude that pushes into the long grass the problem of climate change - le deluge of the future. For too long, perhaps, none of us have really done our bit for the future of the world.

Extinction Rebellion claims "We are facing an unprecedented global emergency. Life on Earth is in crisis: scientists agree we have entered a period of abrupt climate breakdown, and we are in the midst of a mass extinction of our own making."

This might or might not be an accurate statement, but judging simply on how the climate has changed over my own lifetime, what the last couple of summers have been like, and the increasing number of flash floods, the like of which we have recently experienced, and assuming all the experts and all those protesters are even half right - then perhaps we all need to at least hear the Extinction Rebellion message, even if we don't much like the way they are saying it.

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